McAfee To­tal Pro­tec­tion for Mac

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McAfee To­tal Pro­tec­tion is one of the best bar­gains among the options for an­tivirus and mal­ware-pro­tec­tion soft­ware, but only for the first year.

Its in­tro­duc­tory rate of £39.99 in­cludes a oneyear sub­scrip­tion for up to 10 com­put­ers plus a pass­word vault sys­tem for desk­top and mo­bile called True Key.

But af­ter those first 12 months, when the price rises to the reg­u­lar an­nual rate of £79.99, To­tal Pro­tec­tion’s lack of fea­tures rel­a­tive to other com­peti­tors makes it hard to rec­om­mend as a long-term op­tion. More­over, the soft­ware is the only pack­age we’ve re­viewed in 2018 with no score from ei­ther AV-TEST or AV Com­pa­ra­bles’s 2017 test­ing, so we can’t pro­vide an ap­ples-to-ap­ples score on macOS and Win­dows mal­ware and macOS un­wanted/ad­ware apps.

Per­for­mance

That said, in our own hands-on spot-test­ing, To­tal Pro­tec­tion pro­vided good basic pro­tec­tion. When I down­loaded known macOS mal­ware from Ob­jec­tive See’s repos­i­tory, To­tal Pro­tec­tion iden­ti­fied every ex­am­ple I tried im­me­di­ately on de­com­pres­sion from an en­crypted ZIP ar­chive. It

also iden­ti­fied a mix of Mac and Win­dows mal­ware from the WICAR ar­chive.

To test its scan­ning abil­ity, I left down­loaded mal­ware on a sep­a­rate drive used to test other an­tivirus soft­ware pack­ages, and then per­formed a full scan from McAfee’s app. To­tal Pro­tec­tion found that mal­ware and quar­an­tined it. Note that there’s no sep­a­rate ac­cess to quar­an­tine – you can only view the list through the ‘See Issue’ but­ton that ap­pears in the app’s Home and Mac Se­cu­rity views af­ter the dis­cov­ery of mal­ware. Quar­an­tined files can be deleted or re­stored with the ma­li­cious part re­moved, but you can’t set files to be deleted au­to­mat­i­cally.

When it comes to ran­somware pro­tec­tion, how­ever, McAfee To­tal Pro­tec­tion leaves users vul­ner­a­ble. That’s un­for­tu­nate, as ac­tive and pre­vi­ously un­known ran­somware threats are cur­rently seen by ex­perts in Ap­ple se­cu­rity as the most likely problem to af­fect macOS users. They’re also the most pun­ish­ing threat af­flict­ing Win­dows users. McAfee’s pack­age lacks both ac­tive and pas­sive ran­somware mon­i­tor­ing; the lat­ter typ­i­cally in­volves lock­ing spe­cific fold­ers against mod­i­fi­ca­tion ex­cept from whitelisted or Ap­ple-signed soft­ware.

It does block known ran­somware sam­ples, such as Mabouia, be­fore they can en­crypt files. But our top picks for an­tivirus soft­ware ac­tively work to block the mass en­cryp­tion of user files – which is the hall­mark of ran­somware – and that should be the cur­rent stan­dard to achieve a high mark.

McAfee’s friendly in­ter­face hides most of the com­plex­ity of virus scan­ning and mal­ware in­ter­ac­tion, and the pro­gram au­to­mates tasks like real-time scan­ning, reg­u­larly sched­uled full­sys­tem scans, and update in­stal­la­tions. Bits of awk­ward­ness do ex­ist though, such as with the app’s set­tings. In­stead of a pref­er­ences di­a­log box, which is a main­stay of Mac soft­ware con­fig­u­ra­tion, McAfee uses a set­tings drop-down that re­quires se­lect­ing a sin­gle cat­e­gory of pro­tec­tion, click­ing a lock and en­ter­ing an Mac ad­min­is­tra­tor’s pass­word, and con­fig­ur­ing that sub­set of set­tings.

In test­ing, I found that at­tempt­ing a man­ual scan re­sulted in an er­ror: ‘Prod­uct Ex­pired’, de­spite a re­view sub­scrip­tion that lasted un­til 2020. The com­pany says it’s ad­dressed this on its end, but dis­miss­ing the di­a­log should al­low users to

pro­ceed. (This work­around did work for me.) I also found that an in-progress man­ual scan’s progress bar dis­ap­peared if To­tal Pro­tec­tion be­gan an­other task, but the soft­ware’s log showed it as com­plete without an in­di­ca­tion that it had fin­ished. McAfee was un­able to repli­cate this problem, but con­firmed that the log­ging is ac­cu­rate, and scans com­plete even if the progress di­a­log isn’t shown.

Other as­pects and fea­tures

To­tal Pro­tec­tion in­cludes na­tive browser plug-ins. The browser plug-in works as one would hope: Any at­tempt to load a page with mal­ware on it was blocked. How­ever, the block mes­sage lacks de­tail and is poorly for­mat­ted – a mi­nor point, but such pre­sen­ta­tion doesn’t match the pol­ish of the rest of the sys­tem.

An in­cluded fire­wall is quite friendly at its top level, with just a switch to turn it on and off, but it also in­cludes two lev­els of deeper com­plex­ity. First, within the Fire­wall set­tings, you can de­fine Wi-Fi net­works to which you con­nect as trusted or un­trusted, which changes fire­wall rules au­to­mat­i­cally. The soft­ware pack­age rec­og­nizes when you con­nect to new net­works, too, and prompts you to clas­sify the your level of trust of that net­work. Click Manage Rules, and you can cre­ate quite so­phis­ti­cated in­struc­tions for block­ing or al­low­ing net­work­ing traf­fic from ports and ad­dresses – fea­tures usu­ally found only in stand­alone fire­wall soft­ware. To­tal Pro­tec­tion also in­cludes a sub­scrip­tion to True Key, which is

pass­word man­age­ment soft­ware cre­ated by In­tel and now de­vel­oped by McAfee. True Key isn’t in­stalled as part of To­tal Pro­tec­tion, though. Rather, you have to down­load it from your ac­count page at McAfee af­ter ac­ti­vat­ing To­tal Pro­tec­tion, and use an ac­ti­va­tion code that you paste into the prod­uct sep­a­rately af­ter in­stalling it. Con­fus­ingly, you’ll find this un­der Free Tri­als > Down­load Pur­chased Prod­ucts af­ter you log in to a web ac­count.

The True Key browser plug-in works well. It offers to re­mem­ber pass­words as you en­ter them, and has an at­trac­tively de­signed, easy-to-use in­ter­face for man­ag­ing and adding pass­words.

How­ever, it didn’t al­ways cap­ture lo­gins for pop­u­lar sites. For in­stance, I tried to use its au­to­matic method to cap­ture and store my Ama­zon lo­gin, and it failed. With other sites, like Drop­box, it worked as ex­pected.

The main down­side of True Key is that Mac users are lim­ited to browser plug-ins for Chrome and Fire­fox – no Sa­fari sup­port ex­ists. Users of Chrome and Fire­fox will find this a non-issue, of course, but many Mac own­ers will find True Key to be a non-starter.

The True Key sys­tem stores your in­for­ma­tion cen­trally, and re­lies on a browser ex­ten­sion that uses in-browser en­cryp­tion and de­cryp­tion. The cen­tral stor­age only stores en­crypted en­tries. That’s also the case with pop­u­lar pass­word safes like LastPass, 1Pass­word, and oth­ers, but some people avoid any sys­tem that re­lies on cen­tral stor­age.

Mac­world’s buy­ing ad­vice

McAfee To­tal Pro­tec­tion comes with a large num­ber of com­put­ers in its li­cense at a low price – but only for its first year. Those 12 months should pro­vide good ser­vice, though: To­tal Pro­tec­tion was adept at iden­ti­fy­ing mal­ware, while also com­ing with the extras of a ro­bust fire­wall and a pass­word man­ager. How­ever, its high sub­se­quent an­nual cost, the lack of Sa­fari sup­port for True Key, and lack of both ac­tive and pas­sive ran­somware mon­i­tor­ing pushes it down in the pack among peers. Glenn Fleish­man

Unzip­ping a piece of mal­ware re­sults in an im­me­di­ate block of the ar­chive’s con­tents and a pop-up mes­sage with a warn­ing

A cus­tom scan lets you check ex­ter­nal vol­umes or spe­cific fold­ers

A sur­pris­ingly so­phis­ti­cated fire­wall ap­pears at first glance to be simple, but a few clicks gets you into net­work­ing de­tails

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